Law school names new dean

Jelani Jefferson Exum
Jelani Jefferson Exum

University of Detroit Mercy announces the appointment of Jelani Jefferson Exum as the new dean of the School of Law, effective July 1.

Jefferson Exum is a nationally recognized expert in sentencing law and procedure and joined the Detroit Mercy faculty in 2019.

“I am honored to be the next dean of Detroit Mercy Law,” Jefferson Exum said. “Our school has a rich history of service, dedication to social justice and commitment to diversity and equity, all values that I hold dear. I look forward to expanding our deep connection to the Detroit community and to strengthening our regional, national and transnational presence.”

Jefferson Exum is the first African American and second woman to be dean of Detroit Mercy Law. She replaces Phyllis L. Crocker, who is retiring.

“Detroit Mercy is very fortunate to have a legal scholar such as Professor Jefferson Exum lead our 109-year-old School of Law,” said Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi. “She will add tremendous value and energy to our institution’s Jesuit and Mercy mission.”

Pamela Zarkowski, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs for Detroit Mercy, also praised Jefferson Exum.

“I look forward to Professor Jefferson Exum serving as dean of the School of Law,” Zarkowski said. “I am confident that her contributions to the School and the University will benefit the entire law school, university and legal communities.”

Jefferson Exum added: “Over the last two years on the Detroit Mercy Law faculty, I have come to truly appreciate our bright and tenacious students, our talented and dedicated faculty, our excellent team of administrators and staff and our engaged alumni. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with and on behalf of this amazing community as we move into an exciting and boundless future.”

Jefferson Exum is a graduate of Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College. Before joining academia, she served as a law clerk for the Honorable James L. Dennis, United States Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Honorable Eldon E. Fallon, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Jefferson Exum joined the law faculty as the Philip J. McElroy Professor of Law in 2019. Prior to joining Detroit Mercy Law, she was a professor of law and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the University of Toledo College of Law, an associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law and a visiting associate professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She has also been a Forrester Fellow and instructor in legal writing at Tulane Law School. She is a member of the editorial board of the Federal Sentencing Reporter and her work has been featured on prominent sentencing blogs, such as Sentencing Law and Policy.

Jefferson Exum also chairs the advisory board for the Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit. She writes primarily in the area of sentencing law and policy. Her research interests include comparative criminal law and procedure, policing and the impact of race on criminal justice.

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